At last weekend's UFC 239 event, featherweight and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes cemented herself as the best fighter in the bantamweight division -- and perhaps the history of women's MMA -- with a first-round knockout of former champion Holly Holm.
The main event of Saturday's card in Sacramento could go a long way to determining a future challenger to Nunes' supremacy. Germaine de Randamie is a veteran kickboxer who has already defeated some big names, and Aspen Ladd has blazed through her first three opponents in the promotion. There are several clear stylistic differences, which are made evident through their career stats.
The following looks at those differences and points to the key factors, which could determine a winner on Saturday.
At a glance, de Randamie is a classic standup striker, and Ladd is much more of a brawler and ground fighter. While that might be the biggest and most obvious difference between the two fighters, it is not where the contrast stops. In her three-fight UFC career, Ladd has landed with exceptional volume. She lands 5.58 significant strikes per minute, which is third-best among ranked bantamweight fighters. On the other hand, de Randamie has been much more conservative in her approach and lands only 2.96 per minute, which is well below the average for the same group (3.85).
Ladd's approach to striking has been somewhat reckless, and her defense has certainly suffered. She has absorbed 4.89 significant strikes per minute. That rate ranked 15th out of the top 16 bantamweights. Even though she has been prolific offensively, Ladd's lack of solid defense holds her back statistically. Her striking differential, which is measured as significant strikes landed per minute minus significant strikes absorbed per minute, is currently only +0.69.
On the other hand, de Randamie is actually a plus defender when it comes to striking. She absorbs only 1.91 significant strikes per minute, which is second-best among the ranked fighters in the division. Even though Ladd has a wide advantage in terms of landed strikes, de Randamie's defensive prowess leaves her with a +1.05 striking differential, which is nearly three times the average for a ranked bantamweight (+0.39).
If this fight turns into a striking contest, it will be interesting to see if productive offense wins over effective defense. De Randamie certainly has the edge in terms of striking differential, but Ladd's volume approach could pay dividends if it allows her to do serious damage or influence the judges.
A key element of Ladd's striking offense in her nascent UFC career has been her ability to land strikes on the ground. Most fighters land the vast majority of their strikes at distance, which is defined as standing and not in the clinch. However, 48% of Ladd's landed significant strikes have come on the ground, compared to only 32% at distance. The approach has been effective for her so far, as she has landed 70% of her significant attempts on the ground, and she has outlanded her opponents 69-4 in terms of significant ground strikes.
When it comes to striking at distance, de Randamie has a clear and decisive edge. During her UFC/Strikeforce career, 60% of her landed significant strikes have come at distance. She holds a +0.52 striking differential when including only distance strikes. On the other hand, Ladd has absorbed 2.73 significant strikes per minute at distance and holds a negative differential in the position (-0.92). If these striking numbers hold, the fighter who is able to dictate the position of the fight will have a pretty sizable advantage. It is hard to imagine either fighter excelling in her opponent's preferred striking position.
Ladd has had very little trouble putting the fight on the floor. She has landed 80% of her takedown attempts and averaged 2.31 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time. In addition to her ground striking, she has showcased offensive grappling ability from the top position, as she has averaged 2.25 passes per landed takedown as well as 1.70 submission attempts per 15 minutes.
De Randamie really is a striker through and through. In her UFC/Strikeforce career, she has attempted only two takedowns and came up empty on both attempts. Despite a disinterest in looking for takedowns, she has come a long way in terms of defensive wrestling. She has allowed her opponents to land 1.58 takedowns per 15 minutes. However, she has not allowed a single takedown since her loss to Nunes in 2013. In her past four fights, she has stopped all 22 of her opponents' combined takedown attempts.
Despite those wrestling advancements, grappling seemingly remains a liability for de Randamie. She has gone only 2-2 in fights in which she has surrendered a takedown. Against Julia Budd, she was dominated in terms of position and dropped the decision, despite absorbing only six significant strikes in a 15-minute fight. Her other loss came against Nunes, who was able to unleash 14 significant ground strikes and finish via elbows from the mount.
De Randamie might be able to win this fight, even if she spends some time in the bottom position. However, it would certainly be advantageous for her to keep the fight at distance. Ladd's grappling has been impressive so far, and she should certainly put de Randamie's improved defensive wrestling to the test.